Delta's 'new' airport fees explained

Late last week Reuters reported that Delta will "start adding airport fees" to its flights. Funny thing is, these fees aren't as new as they sound.

Before the change, the fees (called "Passenger Facility Charges" or PFCs) were already paid by passengers on nonstop flights, tacked on to the bill along with all the other taxes. That's why it made our heads spin when both Reuters and the Associated Press reported that Delta would now pass those fees on to travelers. How could that be when those fees were already passed along?

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In fact, the only change is on connecting flights. "Delta used to absorb some PFCs when a change of planes at a high-PFC airport put Delta's fare at a competitive disadvantage to a line connecting through a low- or no-PFC hub," says contributing editor Ed Perkins. "This meant, in effect, lowering the [base fare] so that the totals matched."

Delta now says it will no longer do that. The result? Even with equal base fares, its total fare on some non-direct flights may no longer be identical to the competition. Northwest tried a similar move last year and was quickly rebuffed when no other airlines matched. But this year most airlines have already raised prices several times since January 1, and the general environment may be more receptive to such a change.

And that, as Paul Harvey might say, is the "rest of the story."

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